A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: OBSERVING THE TRIDUUM
As you read this message, we have already entered what has traditionally been known as the Triduum, the ancient Christian name for the three days of observances before Easter. The Triduum follows the Jewish tradition of marking days, since all of Jesus’ followers that were with him through the events of Holy Week were, of course, Jewish. That means it began last night, the evening of Maundy Thursday, and not yesterday morning. So today, Friday morning, is still the first day of the Triduum, because the second day does not begin until tonight!
Last night we observed Maundy Thursday, in which we recall the Last Supper and the institution of the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s “new commandment” that we love one another just as Christ has loved us. We did so with a contemplative prayer service in Fellowship Hall that included prayers, music, and the sacrament of Communion.
Tonight, at 8 p.m. in the Sanctuary, we will observe Good Friday with a Service of Tenebrae. Tenebrae is Latin for “darkness,” and that is what the service involves: walking through the sequence of Jesus’ arrest, trial, torment, crucifixion, death, and burial by reading the Scriptural stories from the Gospel of Luke in sequence, along with hymns or anthems and time for silent reflection.
After each passage is read, a candle on the Communion table is extinguished and the lights of the Sanctuary are lowered, until only the Christ candle is left. It is then processed out of the Sanctuary, symbolizing the light of Christ going out of the world at his death, and the Sanctuary is left in total darkness until the the service concludes, at which point enough light is returned to safely exit in silence. It is a very moving service, and I hope you can join in person or online tonight.
Holy Saturday, in many ways, is the forgotten time of the Triduum, but this was not always the case. It is actually the oldest part of Christian Holy Week observances, going back to the early observances of the ancient church, and before the Middle Ages it was the best-attended service of the year! It was a vigil that began Saturday evening, went all night with prayer, and then ended at dawn with a celebration of Communion on Easter morning.
While we do not hold an all-night vigil, we do observe this tradition in our own way with a Holy Saturday Compline Service at 8 p.m., that preserves the spirit of those vigils with a service of contemplative and sung prayer on Saturday evening. It’s less than an hour long, but it is a wonderful way of spiritually “keeping watch” between Good Friday and Easter morning that I encourage you to experience, again either in person or online.
Easter, of course, will be celebrated on Sunday with our Contemporary service at 9 a.m. and our Traditional service at 11:15 a.m., as we gather in person and online to give thanks to God that “Christ is risen; he is risen indeed!” And that ends our observance of the Triduum, which officially concludes Sunday evening, the end of the third day.
I hope you will participate in as many of these rich Holy Week offerings as you are able. If there was a fourth day, it would be a day of rest! But in any case, the church will be closed on Monday, April 18, as a holiday for the pastors and staff after Holy Week. As usual, in case of an urgent pastoral concern, call the main church office at 610-867-5865 and follow the instructions for reaching the on-call pastor.
I look forward to completing our journey through Lent and Holy Week and to celebrating Christ’s resurrection with you on Sunday!
Grace and Peace,
*All of these services will be offered in person and livestreamed on our Facebook page and on our website.